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One year into unrest, Iranian women still defying hijab laws

On the first anniversary of nationwide unrest, a growing number of women continue to defy the mandatory hijab laws despite the Islamic Republic's brutal response.  
Iran hijab

The mandatory hijab regulations of Iran's ruling theocracy have faced serious questioning and defiance since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini's death in custody of morality police in September of last year.

A year into the ensuing nationwide unrest, the Islamic Republic has yet to come to terms with Iranian women over the hijab, a fundamental pillar of its governance for over four decades.    

Last month, the conservative parliament, packed with loyalists of the 84-year-old Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, voted to debate a new hijab and chastity bill behind closed doors. The original draft was a joint product of President Ebrahim Raisi's hard-line government and the judiciary.  

The bill seeks to specifically criminalize any act in breach of the hijab, with punishments ranging from fines and bans on public service to prison terms up to 10 years. Authorities say it is meant for deterrence and will use smart technology to detect violators. Even shop owners letting in women who don't meet the strict dress code would face closures, as they have been in recent months without the bill.  

Despite widespread criticism even from pro-government pundits, the Islamic Republic has been determined to push the bill, as it is overwhelmed with the trend of Iranian women, particularly younger ones, appearing in public without headscarves. Defiance has spread despite the state's prosecution of many female public figures and actors.  

Many eyebrows have also been raised at Iranian judiciary verdicts such as washing corpses or cleaning streets as punishment for some hijab-defying women.  

For months amid the unrest, the morality police, which enforces the hijab rules, appeared absent from Iranian streets, sparking speculation that the squad had been abolished for good. But in July, Iranian authorities confirmed its return, in what appeared to be a message of non-compromise.  

And in the run-up to the unrest anniversary, the intelligence community and security forces have been rounding up hundreds of activists nationwide, according to a report by the France-based Kurdistan Human Rights Network. Even some members of the families of last year's crackdown remain behind bars, as the government seeks to push back on any plans for commemorations.  

Mahsa Amini's father has reportedly been summoned four times in two weeks and remains under pressure to cancel an anniversary memorial by her grave.  

In anticipation of that ceremony, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has led the crackdown, deployed a military tank inside Amini's cemetery in her hometown of Saqez, while hundreds of its anti-riot forces were seen parading the streets, according to Hengaw, an expat rights organization monitoring political developments in Iran.  

The same tightened security was reported in the capital Tehran as well as over a dozen Kurdish cities, which have constantly been flashpoint areas during the unrest over the past year.  

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